ECONOMY

In Brief

Greece to auction 500 mln euros of treasury bills Greece yesterday said it would issue a batch of three-month treasury bills worth 500 million euros ($660 million dollars) next week, as it mulls a return to longer-term debt sales. «On January 18, the Hellenic Republic will auction 13-week T-bills in book entry form with [a] maturity [of] 26 April 2011,» the country’s debt agency said. In its last three-month sale, Greece in mid-November raised 390 million euros at a yield of 4.10 percent. The issue, which had an original target of 300 million euros, was oversubscribed nearly five times. Earlier this week, Athens mustered 1.95 billion euros from six-month treasury bills at 4.9 percent interest in its largest offering since July. But it has so far shied away from longer-term paper as rates remain prohibitively high. The debt crisis, which drove Greece to the brink of bankruptcy last year, placed major pressure on the euro and forced the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to craft an emergency loan for Athens, followed by similar action for Ireland. (AFP) Shares advance nearly 4 percent for the week Greek stocks clung onto gains yesterday, advancing for a fourth consecutive session on across-the-board gains. The Athens bourse’s benchmark general index added 0.23 percent to 1,445.86 points, bringing weekly gains to almost 4 percent. The blue chip FTSE/ATHEX 20 index inched ahead 0.42 percent to 679.74 points. National Bank rose 1.71 percent to 6.55 euros and Piraeus Bank ended at 1.63 euros, off 4.12 percent. Turnover reached 95.1 million euros. Health system The Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) signed an agreement with the Greek Health Ministry and the University of Athens to implement a national health accounting system to curb spending on healthcare. An agreement signed last month will tackle the lack of statistical data on health spending, ELSTAT said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. The new system will document all spending, suppliers and financial sources as well as spending per patient. The system will draw on data from public and closely held hospitals, health pension funds, private surgeries as well as insurance companies, according to the statement. Reining in health spending is one of the conditions of Greece’s 110-billion-euro ($147 billion) bailout package from the European Union and International Monetary Fund. Hospitals ran up 5.4 billion euros of unpaid bills to suppliers between 2007 and 2009, prompting a revision of the country’s deficit and debt figures which helped spark the European sovereign debt crisis. The IMF reiterated last month that the country needs to overhaul accounting controls, install computers at hospitals to monitor spending, and centralize the system for buying drugs and equipment to negotiate lower prices. In 2007, Greece spent 2.4 percent of gross domestic product on pharmaceuticals, the highest of the 34 countries in the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Greece’s annual health bill amounts to more than 13 billion euros, or about 5 percent of GDP, according to the government. The government aims to implement the measures this year to save the equivalent of 0.5 percent of GDP, according to a November 22 letter to the EU. (Bloomberg) Airline deal Cyprus Airways, the country’s state-controlled carrier, sold its wholly owned unit Zenon NDC Ltd for $5.5 million to closely held Texas-based Sabre Holdings. Cyprus Airways signed the deal to sell Zenon, a provider of electronic information for the travel industry, on December 24, the Nicosia-based airline said in a filing yesterday to the Cyprus Stock Exchange. Sabre provides technology solutions to travel companies. Cyprus Airways, which controls 28 percent of the east Mediterranean island’s air-traffic market, is looking to restructure amid growing losses. The carrier may have lost 30 million euros ($40.3 million) last year after posting a loss of 3.3 million euros in 2009, Finance Minister Charilaos Stavrakis said on November 9. (Bloomberg)